Preparing for the School’s Birthday
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, we are celebrating the school's 25th Birthday on March 4th! Brown room began discussions about creating a gift for the school way back in January, in preparation for this event.
Elena: If we know the school’s birthday is coming up, how could we celebrate the birthday?
Mimi: I don’t know everybody’s birthday
Elena: That’s ok if you don’t know everyone’s! How could we celebrate the school’s birthday?
Elena: Oh, what kind of decorations?
Mimi: I don’t know!
Bailee: No, boots!
Elena: Boots for the school’s birthday? Ok. What other kinds of decorations?
Mimi: The sun, a toy
Elena: What kind of things do you think the school would like for it’s birthday?
Mimi: Ummm clay?
Elena: Oh, Bailee what do you think about that?
Elena: The number line that counts how many years the school has been around is made out of clay. Do you want to go look at it?
Elena: Oh that’s exciting, we will have to celebrate next year! So this is our birthday calendar. Looking at it, how can you tell if a birthday has already happened?
Cal: My birthday happened!
Elena: Has it already passed?
Charlton: Birthday gift!
Elena: That’s right, we add a picture of a birthday gift once we’ve celebrated a birthday. We’ve celebrated Seon’s and mine. We will celebrate Karen next and then..
Cal: That’s me! That’s Cal!
Charlton: We didn’t celebrate his birthday (points to Mimi). It has my calendar. And remember this (points to the image of the gift) and then we celebrate rawls birthday, ramsey’s birthday.
Elena: What do we do before someone has a birthday?
Cal: It’s my birthday
Elena: yes, Cal’s birthday is coming up! What would we do before to prepare for his birthday?
Charlton: We make his calendar!
Elena: Yes, we will decorate his tree cookie so that we know we celebrated his birthday, but what happens before we celebrate?
Charlton: We get his gift!
Elena: We get his gift! And how do we get his gift? Do we go to the store and buy it?
Fay: We could collage!
Cal: I want to get a gift. Maybe it will be a police guy!
From our initial conversations about the schools gift, we narrowed the materials down to three ideas in particular: clay, collage and painting. The children’s work on previous birthday committee inspired each of these suggestions, as all three have been present in previous Brown Room Birthday gifts. This week we began working with one of the suggested materials: clay. Our intention was to create a clay sculpture that either represented the school or captured the school’s likeness. We offered similar provocations today and on Monday that included projected images of the school next to the clay materials. Wednesday’s provocation also had a variety of wood and wire materials available to help with building a tall structure. This came from Ford’s feedback on Monday when he had a piece he wanted to be the top of the belltower, but “I can’t make it stay” as he hadn’t yet built the rest of the bell tower. What follows below is the children’s initial explorations with using clay to create the school’s birthday gift.
Monday, February 14
On Monday, we invited Ford and Mimi to the atelier to try working with the clay. Both children immediately walked over to the projected image of the school and started pointing out what they noticed most.
Ford looking at the fire bell in front of the school: I see that red button right there. I think I can like touch it and we can see what happens. I think it makes the school different.
Mimi: That’s St. Johns!
Ford: No, theres the bell (crouching and touching the image of the doorbell)
Mimi: Look, its a circle! (pointing to the bell tower window)
Jen: Can you tell where your classroom is?
Ford points to the leftmost window: We’re right up here. That’s in our classroom!
Mimi points to the Blake Hall windows: That ones downstairs.
After observing images of in the interior and exterior of the school, Ford and Mimi began cutting and working with the clay.
Ford: I need more clay to make it bigger, and bigger!
Ford holding a large piece of clay in the air: I need to go put his up here, can you help me put this up here.
Elena: You’re making the top of the school?
Ford: Yes, I need something to connect it. Mimi I need something to connect to this.
Mimi: I made a carrot! (a coil of clay)
Ford: I’m looking for a big piece, like a tall building.
Elena: Mimi, did you hear that Ford is looking for a big piece, like a tall building? Do you think you could help him build that?
Ford: I want to make that (points to the top of the belltower)
Mimi: Im making down to the part and there where you come down the stairs to go home, right here.
Ford: This is the other part of the school.
Ford: You have to make a hole in the school for the path
Mimi: I’m making a hole.
Mimi and Ford worked hard to create their vision. They worked on creating long clay coils to support the bell tower, and the flat brick path. In the end, however, their vision didn’t quite come together the way they wanted and they both enjoyed squishing the clay back into a big slab.
Wednesday, February 16
Today we presented a similar provocation and invited Fay, Seon and Louisa first to explore the clay in the studio.
Fay: That’s St. Johns, and the st. johns door! That’s my school
Fay: I hear the bell, that’s the real St. John’s bell.
Fay: This is wire. I need something harder. Let it sit for a minute, and here’s a small piece. I need to cut it so its the right size to make it big. It’s a window cake!
Louisa: Now I put this one on top.
Louisa spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging the small blocks as she looked to the image on screen for inspiration.
Seon initially started building with one, larger tower of clay pieces, but over time decided to break it up into several smaller towers which she called “school”. Using wire and clay, she also built a tree, similar to the one in the photograph and Fay helped her create a stand for it. After working on clay, Seon also took time to build the school with some of the wood materials, adding small photography slides to one wall as the "windows"
After some time, Mimi, Emma and Ellie all joined in.
Fay: I’m going to make that, the doorbell.
Ellie: I’m a making a door. I’m making that door. The school door.
Ellie: Clay sounds like trumpets!
Fay: It’s an ice cream door bell! That’s so funny
Fay: This is like a pretend telephone, like downstairs on the phone. Where we just were (Blake Hall)
Ellie: That’s the clay, the soft clay.
In the end the children created a beautiful depiction of the school with a tree, and had a chance to reflect on some of the features of the school that felt meaningful to them. We plan to present this clay and materials provocation one more time on Friday in the outdoor studio, to the children who haven’t yet had a chance to build with them.